Cheap Eats: Sometimes Health and Wealth Go Together

01/26/14 by Rennie Detore

Eating healthy is difficult. It also can be quite expensive.
If you've ever passed by a fast food restaurant, they're quick to lure you into the friendly confines of their establishment with value meals and dollar menus that make eating breakfast, lunch and dinner relatively inexpensive.
All of your fatty favorites are well represented on that illuminating menu board that beckons your full attention, especially when you're stomach is telling you its time to eat but your bank account reminds you that you're not quite ready for a $30 lunch.
The flip side to saving plenty of money is adding inches to your waistline and pounds to your frame, along with potentially exacerbating health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or the epidemic that is obesity.
Those same fast food chains like Wendy's or McDonald's will sell you a double cheeseburger for $1, but if you're interested in a grilled chicken sandwich or salad, then be prepared to spend closer to $5 for those choices.

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You can get a chicken sandwich for $1, only if you don't mind that it is fried.
The same can be said for grocery store food as well for the most part. The deli counter can't keep the chipped ham for $1.99 per pound on the shelves but good luck moving that $7 per pound turkey breast. Healthy dinner dishes like salmon, chicken or lean sirloin checks in much higher from a price point than fattier meats, burgers or hot dogs.
The list, whether you're shopping or perusing a restaurant menu, goes on and on.
The real dilemma is not only the price of food but the realization that wealth is directly related to how healthy you are. Poorer populations tend to be the ones that are overweight, and the secret to that correlation centers on a lack of income and cheaper, unhealthier foods costing less and marketed to that particular buying group.
So how is poverty linked to income exactly?
The Diabetes Journal maintains that if you live in a part of the country that can't get their hands on food that is deemed fresh, like fruits and vegetables, then you're most likely headed toward obesity. That same study suggests that households below the poverty line, as of 2010, of $21,756 are deemed "food insecure," and aren't certain that acquiring foods they'll need or proper nourishment is even possible.
"We know its a problem, and is mostly due to the fact the cheaper, processed foods are mostly consumed by lower income people," said Josh Anderson, a certified personal trainer and owner of Always Active Athletics LLC. "A lack of education could be the primary culprit. If people are not educated in the nutritional value of certain foods or produce, they may never know what they're missing out on."
Anderson brings up a valid point with education as it relates to poor food choices. He also hits another important caveat in this discussion: a link between overweight parents and kids who are following in those fat consumption footsteps.
Parents who adopt a poor diet most likely have kids who already are struggling to eat healthy before they become a teenager. When it comes to diet and kids, income isn't always the best barometer. Kids who come from an upper middle class or wealthy background still may struggle to eat the right foods, regardless of price.
That element comes courtesy of parents who might be working long hours or are too busy to make home cooked meals with appropriate servings of fruits, vegetables, starches and proteins.
Jon Wade of MotleyHealth.com argues the point that income and poor eating correlate, and believes that not only kids from a better income tax bracket still can have a hard time eating right but also the parents.
"Much is talked about how poorer people make bad lifestyle choices, but wealthy middle-aged men are more likely to become obese than their partners," Wade laments. "Wealthy men often do not care, enjoy good food."
According to Wade, however, the wealthy sector of the population still has hope, in the form of the women from that same household.
"Wealthy women are more concerned with their appearance and have a far less stressful life than those less fortunate," Wade said.
Finding a happy medium when it comes to your household income and the foods you buy is a slippery slope, but one that might have some sure footing in the future.
The trick to taming your diet and eating shortcomings centers on the ability to find unprocessed options and lean meats that are universally lauded for being less expensive.
Those who aren't financially equipped to buy the best meats, supplements or restaurant foods that aren't refined carbohydrates combined with fat still might find salvation is foods that are a combination of less expensive and good for you.
Apples stand pat as one of the healthier foods on the market and in the market, and cost about $1 per pound. Rice, whole grains and sweet potatoes won't sink your spending, either. And if you're looking for protein, the best bet for money hungry people who are short on the money part is tuna, eggs or even a lesser expensive, supplemental whey protein powder.
Even the more expensive, aforementioned protein options still aren't completely off the market to the shopper that is savvy enough to buy when the food is discounted. The idea of eating clearance meats might not sound too appealing but what's wrong with a 50% off piece of steak that only has a shelf life of a few days. Why not just plan to eat it the day you buy it?
That system is far from perfect but, at the very least, provides a viable option to maintain health and wellness and keeping your wallet intact. The key for the demographic that falls below the poverty line as far as income is overhauling how you buy food and eat, versus the convenience of stopping for a quick bite, which takes a huge chunk out of your efforts to stay healthy.

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